I WOULD have liked to have featured the recently refurbished Three Horseshoes, in Corn Street, Witney, this week, but at the time of writing, the refurbishment was not quite finished.

I would have also liked to talk about The Plough, High Street, as it's finally emerged triumphant from devastating flood damage of 2007. Unfortunately, The Plough is only serving food on Sundays at the moment, though I've been assured food will be offered mid-day shortly, so that's a place to consider soon when eating out. As The Plough has a beautiful garden that stretches right down to the River Windrush, this pub is one of Witney's hidden secrets, which deserves local support.

So unable to write up either of those pubs, I took myself to Woodstock, the town where my own career as a publican began a million years ago, when I created the first filled jacket potato menu.

No, I didn't visit The Kings Head, I don't think it ever pays to look back. I looked forward instead by visiting The Marlborough Arms Hotel, Oxford Street, which was given a make-over last October, and so looks quite different inside.

I rather liked its comfortable air of previous years, and am not sure that the pseudo-stone wall covering and the modern light-wood furnishings, that dominate now, sit comfortably in an old 14th-century coaching inn. The sunflowers on the bar were attractive, and the candles on every table added atmosphere, but taken as a whole, the bar area now has a rather austere look. Perhaps it takes on a warmer glow in the winter, when the massive stone fireplace is filled with flaming logs?

The murals on the wall besides the bar warrant a mention though, particularly as last Wednesday was the anniversary of the battle of Blenheim. The standard bearing the French fleur-de-lys, which is offered annually to the Queen on this date by the Duke of Marlborough as a Quit Rent payment, is included in the murals.

My colleague Chris Koenig had joined me on this trip. He was there to raise a glass to both the many pub trips we have shared over the years, and my retirement. It was a time to reminisce, which we did whilst sipping Woodforde's Wherry, a golden brew, which is soft and approachable, yet nicely bitter too. It was a beer I've never tasted before, which, as the future will now be filled with new experiences, seemed appropriate.

The lunch menu is quite basic, though there are several quite adventurous dishes on the specials board, but that suited us fine.

As this was to be my last pub write-up for the Witney Gazette, the dish I chose just had to be fish and chips. Traditional battered cod, at £9.50, was listed, but as that was not available, they served battered hokie instead, which was fine (pictured). Chris had moules mariniere, the classic mussel dish cooked in white wine and served with chips (£10.50), which arrived beautifully served and swimming in the most delicious creamy garlic sauce. As the mussels were fat and juicy and the sauce really flavoursome, he declared it a great lunch. So did I.

So, that's it folks. My final pub for the Witney Gazette. I raise my glass to you all.

As much of my time in the future will be taken up researching a book that dog and I will be working on together, I won't be giving up my pub visits altogether.

Paws Under the Table, will be published in the spring by Jon Carpenter, of Wychwood Press. If you haven't guessed already, it will feature dog-friendly pubs in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, and the many dog walks that can be enjoyed after a good pub lunch. Naturally, it will be written in two voices, dog's and mine, because from now on, he will be my constant companion.

Cheers, everyone!